By Fred S. Washington, Jr., Present District 11 Representative and Newly Drawn District 3 Candidate
For those who may not know me, let me first introduce myself. For five-plus years I have served as chairman of the Beaufort County Board of Education — selected and elected by my peers on the school board. I believe my strength is bringing together people of differing opinions and working to find a common path forward — an essential skill when there are 11 seats on the school board.
I am seeking re-election to District 3 because there is much work still to be done, chief among them selection of the next School Superintendent and ensuring our students continue to gain better educations to prepare them for a bright future.
I am a native Beaufortonian — born on Parris Island Oct. 3, 1946 — and the youngest of seven children of the late Fred Washington Senior and Sheldonia Washington. A product of the Beaufort County public schools, I am a proud 1964 graduate of Robert Smalls High School. In 1968 I received my Bachelor’s degree from Boston University. I am married to Dr. Barbara Morgan, Director of Dental Services at BJHCHS, Inc. We have two daughters (Bria and Samone) who graduated from Beaufort High School and I have a third daughter (Danica) who graduated from Beaufort Academy.
My employment and volunteer history includes working for four years in the Residence Life Division at Boston University; VISTA Volunteer and later Supervisor-Director of Hawthorne House Community Center, Roxbury, MA; Manpower Director at Beaufort-Jasper Comprehensive Health; Pupil Personnel Services Director for the Beaufort County Schools; Director of the Beaufort County Department of Social Services (a state agency) for over 27 years; served on the Beaufort Joint Planning Commission; Lowcountry Council of Governments Board; Beaufort County United Way Allocation Committee; SC Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations; Boys and Girls Club Board; Beaufort Marine Institute Board; Beaufort Housing Authority Board; BC First Steps Partnership Board (charter member); Technical College of the Lowcountry Area Commission; chair of the Beaufort Fund Advisory Committee of the Coastal Community Foundation; and elected to Beaufort City Council from July 1979 to July 1993.
In November 2006 I was elected to the BC School Board. In January 2007 my Board colleagues elected me chairman for a two year term and re-elected me chairman in 2009. Voters re-elected me to the Board in November 2010 and in January 2011 the Board voted me to serve as chairman because of my ability to bring together differing points of view to Work Together for Improved Results. In my five plus years as chairman of the Board of Education we have significantly increased student achievement (but are not where we need to be). Today in our schools, except for second grade reading, ALL grades 3-8 and ALL subjects are above national averages. According to rankings by the S.C. Education Oversight Committee, we have four schools rated Excellent now – five years ago, NONE were rated Excellent. This year we had 27 schools earn 34 Palmetto Gold, Silver or Closing Achievement Gap awards, compared to just three schools winning those honors in 2006. We have built six new schools and closed/consolidated three schools while cutting our budget almost $20 million and kept 70 percent of all funds in the classroom. College scholarships increased 50 percent from 2008 to 2012 going from $10 million to $14.8 million. But much remains to be done. We have too many of our students, particularly minority students, who are not achieving at levels they are capable.
What are some of my beliefs/positions and what do I wish to accomplish if re-elected? I believe so strongly in the importance of Education, particularly public education, that when forced to choose between a job I loved and serving on the Board of Education, I chose the Board. I am not afraid to make tough choices and live with the consequences when I believe I am doing the right thing. I am just fortunate to have a supportive wife and family. The Board now finds itself in a position similar to when I was first elected – the need to hire a superintendent. This is probably the most important duty and decision the Board will make. This person will greatly influence the success of our 20,000 plus students specifically and the District (Board and Administration) generally. I believe we need an experienced reform-oriented superintendent, someone who is a leader/manager who can work effectively with a diverse population of students, staff and communities and significantly close the ‘achievement gap’ among all of our students.
We require someone who can build on the progress we have made in recent years. One who is inclined to move towards more individualized instruction for students; believes that teacher and staff compensation that is more heavily weighted to targeted student growth and other measurable outcomes; embraces more meaningful opportunities for parental and community involvement in our schools; and is willing to incorporate more learning opportunities into our curriculum that our facilities, technology and environment present.
I also believe that in South Carolina we need to implement practical Education related reforms. I want to continue my efforts to have the State of SC, with leadership from our Legislative Delegation and Governor, require state agencies that address at-risk family needs to collaborate and reform/tweak their messages and encounters to include research based proven good parenting practices that enhance brain and behavioral development. Focus on zero to three. This does not require new money, but there must be the willingness to take action. The state can also grant local School Districts more relief from outdated regulations that stifle improvements in learning outcomes or unnecessarily inflate the cost of doing business.
I further believe that teaching should be one of the highest paid professions, but we need to find better measures of accountability. As stated earlier, we need a compensation plan that is weighted heavily on targeted student growth and other measures. The Board has initiated actions to pursue such a compensation approach for its employees. The input of frontline teachers and staff is crucial to meeting the two year development phase with implementation in the third year. We must also make certain we hire and assign educators who can meet the needs of our diverse student population. I must also confess that I place more value on the results of a teacher’s interaction with student than the credentials he/she possess. We need to insist on a certain level of credentialing, but we pay based on results/outcomes.
I am a believer in parental and community involvement in our schools. As a member of the South Carolina School Improvement Council (SC-SIC) Advisory Board, I will continue to advocate for the expansion of the authority/responsibility of mandated local School Improvement Councils to have a more meaningful voice in the operation of our individual schools. We have initiated some changes locally, but seeking statewide endorsement.
I believe in choice in our schools – public dollars to create choices within the Public School System. We are fortunate to have many choices in our District, including Montessori, Arts Infused, Single Gender Classes, Charter, AMES (Academy for Math, Engineering and Science, Foreign Languages (Spanish and Chinese) at the Elementary level, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), dual enrollment options and more. We are focusing on making sure every choice program is one of quality.
As evidenced by my work history and service on the Board of Education, I believe in community partnership to help reduce or eliminate the barriers to becoming a successful learner. The School District cannot and should not address all the impediments to learning encountered by those we serve in a vacuum. We must and are working collaboratively with individual entities like Headstart, United Way of the Lowcountry and First STEPS to address zero to three and other early childhood issues or multiagency entities like the Beaufort County Human Services Alliance that is structured to promote more efficient use of resources in the non-profit, private and public sectors that yield better and more cost effective barrier reduction/removal.
Something that we are not addressing adequately as a community is that of Race and Color. Many have heard me say this before, and I will be brief. When it comes to Race we need to all first remember that we are of the Human race. We have much more in common than the differences some will focus on. When it comes to Color – Green is magic. Green reminds us that we need a strong, viable economic base in order for all of us to prosper and have the quality of life that is possible in our community. Green is also for our environment, which we must respect and protect. It is also important to our economic well-being.
Lastly, I encourage everyone who is eligible to vote in this election to do so. It is an important one. Of course if you reside in District 3 of the County vote for the person you think can best serve the children of our District. I believe I am that person.
Space does not permit me to continue and address all of my beliefs and positions at this time. I would be delighted to meet with any group or organization that would like to know more about my views/positions on school discipline, finances, transportation, curriculum, personnel, etc. I can be reached at email@example.com.